Last Updated: April 21, 2024

Introduction to Parkinson’s Disease

parkinsons disease

Approximately 90,000 people in the U.S. get diagnosed with PD every year. What should you do if one of these people is you or a loved one?

Receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis is usually followed by a range of emotions. Understandably, it can be upsetting and distressing. However, it is also a great time to take measures in advance to manage and improve your journey going forward.

Learn some steps you can take now to cope with a PD diagnosis and work toward the best outcomes for the future. 

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

parkinsons disease awareness

Every April, the Parkinson’s Foundation recognizes Parkinson’s Awareness Month. The goal of this annual observation is to spread awareness of Parkinson’s disease (PD), help people understand its complexity, and recognize the symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder affecting the nervous system that causes uncontrollable movements such as tremors, muscle stiffness, balance issues, speech and writing changes, and other symptoms.

The Parkinson’s Association of Southwest Florida states that Florida has the highest percentage of state population with PD. Florida also has the second highest number of people with PD, behind California.

The specific cause of Parkinson’s is unknown. However, the main risk factors for Parkinson’s disease are older age (usually 60 and above), heredity, sex (with men being more likely to develop PD than women), and environmental triggers like exposure to toxins.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but symptoms can be managed through medications, surgeries, lifestyle changes, physical therapy, speech therapy, and certain medical treatments.

6 Steps to Take After Receiving a Parkinson’s Diagnosis

what to do after a parkinsons diagnosis graphic

It is expected to feel overwhelmed, confused, and even devastated after receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis for you or a loved one. At the mention of PD, many people immediately think of the later stage symptoms of the disease, like tremors and difficulty walking or talking. 

Some people whose symptoms were previously unexplained may actually feel a sense of relief after being diagnosed with PD.

Either way, it is important to know that with modern day treatments and medications, people can live a full, vibrant life even after being diagnosed with PD.

Here are 6 steps you should take after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in order to manage your symptoms and create the best path forward.

1. See a Parkinson’s specialist

Make an appointment with a movement disorder specialist. This type of specialist are neurologists with special training in Parkinson’s. The Parkinson’s Foundation recommends a movement disorder specialist to be the leader of your health care team. These specialists are an extremely valuable resource for information, medications, treatment, care plans, clinical studies, and more. 

If a movement disorder specialist is not accessible to you due to location, the Parkinson’s Foundation suggests receiving most of your care with a reputable general neurologist – rather than a general primary care physician – and then traveling a longer distance to see a specialist a few times per year. Recent research shows that people who have been newly diagnosed with PD who saw a neurologist lived longer than those who only went to a primary care provider.

To find a reputable movement disorder specialist, you can ask your PCP for a recommendation, or you can call the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 1.800.4PD.INFO (473-4636) to access their database.

2. Join a Parkinson’s support group

Talking with others who are in the same situation is a great way to share how you are feeling, ask questions, and know you are not alone. There are hundreds of Parkinson’s awareness and support groups throughout the country. The Parkinson’s Foundation (parkinson.org) is just one organization that offers education, support, and resources.

In Florida, regional organizations like Parkinson’s Association of Southwest Florida, Parkinson Association of Central Florida, and American Parkinson Disease Association of Florida (APDA) offer support groups, educational talks, movement classes, social opportunities, and more.

Online forums and Facebook groups are another great option to get tips, support, and information from others living with or caring for people with Parkinson’s.

3. Incorporate more movement and stretching

Exercising is one strategy that many people with PD consider beneficial. In fact, the Parkinson’s Foundation states that “exercise is medicine for people with Parkinson’s.”

Do not wait until symptoms get more severe – start adding more exercise into your routine before the symptoms appear or worsen. Frequent movement and stretching keep the body limber and strong for a longer period of time. Exercising is also great for mental health and can even lower symptoms of depression and anxiety – conditions that are very common with PD.

Some examples of beneficial exercise for seniors with PD include walking, swimming, cycling, yoga, Tai chi, and even boxing.

4. Eat a balanced diet

While there is no specific diet for managing Parkinson’s, eating a nutritious, balanced diet is important to keep the body healthy as a whole. Fruits, vegetables, proteins, whole grains, and unprocessed foods are always beneficial for your well-being. Your doctor can help you create a meal plan that works for you. 

5. Keep track of symptoms

It is important to keep track of the symptoms you experience at different times of day, when taking certain medications, or after doing specific activities. Keeping accurate records of this information can help your doctor make an accurate treatment plan for you. 

6. Stay up to date

After a diagnosis, it is important to learn about PD and stay informed on the latest research and treatments. Knowing the facts and opportunities available can help you make informed decisions about your care. Resources like Michael J. Fox Foundation provide a plethora of information about the disease as well as opportunities to participate in research studies and more. 

Receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis can be shocking. But, it also provides an opportunity to take action and be proactive toward creating a positive lifestyle in spite of PD.  

It is okay – and normal – to feel worried or upset after being diagnosed with PD. Give yourself time to accept this major life change. Take it one day at a time and lean on support from family and friends to help you adjust.

Assisted Living for Parkinson’s Disease

nurse helping parkinsons patient

Many people with PD are able to age at home long-term – especially with the help of caregivers as the disease progresses. 

However, for others, a Florida assisted living community might be a smart option for managing symptoms and receiving proper care. When considering assisted living for Parkinson’s, it is crucial to find a community where staff members are trained and experienced in caring for people with PD. 

Trying to find the best senior living option can be overwhelming. Let Florida Senior Consulting help.

Our expert senior advisors will help you find Florida senior living communities that are equipped to provide excellent care for people with Parkinson’s. We offer our services at no extra cost to seniors or their families.

Call (800) 969-7176 or visit FloridaSeniorConsulting.com today to start your senior living journey and have peace of mind about your loved one’s safety and care.

Senior living on your terms. The choice should be yours. 

Contact Florida Senior Consulting

(800) 969-7176